These are the words from my older sister, Leonor Rosas, who has asked me to run her story on my blog. She has given me my family's life story, because "This country is more broken than I have ever witnessed it. We have to say something of the reason why immigrants are here and why we come to America. It is not because we do not want to work or be given things for free. We come because of what America is to us."
My immediate family came to the United States in shifts. First my aunts came when they joined the convent in the early '50’s, followed by my uncle and I when we came in 1958. My mother, grandmother, my brother and sister came in 1960. My father arrived two years later.
The immigration process was lengthy and costly. We had medical requirements to meet. My parents had to document that they had the skills necessary to not be a burden to this country…. something that we have never been.
This is a country to be proud of, a place where a person can advance and contribute, worship in the way you feel most at peace, and raise healthy productive children.
We came here because that was not the case in Colombia, South America. When we left our country, there was a Dictator:
Generalisimo Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. He mounted a successful coup against the incumbent President, Laureano Gómez Castro. Pinilla imposed martial law and established a dictatorship style government in Colombia. I remember a reign of terror. I was 7 years old then and I saw Colombia being under martial law. At six 6PM every night, everyone had to be home. Sirens would wail and my Abuela(grandmother) paced the floor waiting for my mother to come through the door. At 5:30PM, my grandmother would get her rosary and begin praying that the bus from Bogota to Fontibon would not be late so that mama would arrive safely before the sirens.
I would hear my mother and my abuela talking about coming to America where we would not have to fear going out at night or gatherings with our neighbors to talk about the fear of our government.
Rojas Pinilla promised peace, unification, a bright future: but he began his own violence. He ordered the army and police against all opposition in Colombia. If you disagreed with him, you were jailed. Many disappeared. By the end of the Rojas regime, over 300,000 Colombians were dead, and Rojas, the self-anointed "peace-bringer" became known as someone else: "a sadist … one of the most savage and venal and altogether incompetent administrators in the history of the nation."
My family sought safety in America. Life was difficult at first for all of us when we arrived here. But the adults found work right away and the children went to school. My grandmother was learning how to shop without speaking English and my father and aunts and uncles went to night school to learn English. We worked, studied, grew. My mother and father had three more children in America.
We went to school, married, became productive citizens. Yes, we became citizens and took our civic responsibilities very seriously. My uncle served in the army and most of us became active in our communities. We loved this country and the freedom to work toward our dream of being part of America and contributing to this country.
It is my love for America that has pushed me to write to you today. I am in anguish over the possibility of Trump becoming President.
Trump has made statements about “rapists, criminals” about Mexicans. Trump's views on women, and plans for Muslims in the U.S are about banning a group based on religion. Some compare Trump to Hitler. I can compare him to a dictatorship.
When I was 12 years old, my Aunt Lilia took me dress shopping. We were walking along Milwaukee's streets and there was a group of young white men marching down the street in a demonstration. The signs they carried stated that the Holocaust never existed.
One second my aunt was holding my hand and the next minute her tiny 95 pounds 5’2’’ body was up against this tall white man in Nazi uniform! She shouted at him:” You don’t know, you were not alive when thousands of people were executed by Hitler, you don’t know how the whole world cried for the victims, you don’t know how we worried that the world would fall to this evil tyrant! We were scared!” I had never seen her speak up for anything before.
Because I was 12, I was mortified. How could she embarrass herself in that way? When she came back to my side and once again took my hand she was in tears. Her small body shook, and she wiped her mouth from the tears. She told me all she had seen as a child. Of what she remembered, of the news she had witnessed. The atrocities she had heard about from the newspapers and radio in Colombia during those terrible times, and she told me how the whole world was in panic that the monster and his criminal ideology would reach North and South America, Europe and Asia. “He wanted the world!” she said. I will never forget her strength as she looked up into the face of a male, two feet taller.
For the first time, I am telling this story. It is time now to talk about tyrants who abuse their power and criminalize those go against them and question their authority. Of what can happen when a person who is in power wants to shut down any dissent, any outcry of injustice.
It is time for all of us citizens of the world to come together regardless of party affiliation or preferredcandidate to form a cohesive effort to repel and stop the darkness that Donald Trump brings with him. He will not unify – he is tearing apart. He will not seek equality for anyone unless they are what he agrees they have to be. He will seek to eliminate, destroy, remove, vilify, and pit Americans against each other.
He wants what we have worked to change – his promise to “Make America Great Again” is different for those who remember the America of the 1950s, '60s, and before. America was great for one type of person: if you are who Donald Trump is.
We can come together and work for the reason so many come to America. With the hope of liberty of different points of view, and of justice for those no matter the country they come from.
Some people say they will not vote in this election. Some people have not seen what I've seen: when someone comes into the office with the highest power in the land, and has only one mission in mind: to have everyone think like them and with our past years of progress, vanish. We cannot lose the dream of what America is. We are not bad. Immigrants do not come here to take and destroy.
Donald Trump is not politics.
Donald Trump is not one party over another or a differing political point of view.
Donald Trump is a candidate who will use America for his own gain. As I have seen dictators do.
Thank you to my sister, Lee, for her words here. Thank you for sharing what you know and I am proud to do what I can, to have others read the story of immigrants in America.